During the Japanese Occupation, when food was scarce, the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) became a staple food for many Malaysians. Unfortunately, since then many people have come to regard sweet potato as food for the poor, and as such think that it has little nutritional value. This is not true at all.

Sweet potatoes are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Do you know: The B vitamins found in the sweet potato are equivalent to those found in polished rice. And it is a rich source of Vitamin C – 125 times more than rice. (More info in this CAP Guide: https://consumer.org.my/pro…/vegetables-a-nutrition-guide/)

In Japan, cooked sweet potatoes are currently an easy-to-purchase street snack. In fact, it’s Japan’s thriving centuries-old health snack. A favourite in the country since the 1600s, they were a worthy, cheap alternative to otherwise refined sweet treats available then.

The sweet potatoes, usually roasted, are naturally sweet and can be eaten straight off the coals. It’s nutritious, filling and “a great snack alternative to junk food”, says Aiko Tanaka, food researcher and director of the Japan Food Studies College in Osaka.

“Yaki-imo (baked or roasted sweet potato) served as a kind of fast food for the common people until around 1970, when American-style snack foods and fast-food restaurants began to appear in Japan,” Tanaka says.

BBC’s Good Food column says this natural food may: reduce the risk of cancer, support digestive health and immune function, and help manage Type 2 diabetes; and is also good for eye health.

Today mobile trucks that used to sell it are gradually disappearing in Japan. However, cooked sweet potatoes are made available in convenience stores and supermarkets. Thanks to that, this simple and nutritious food still has a following today.

We should be doing the same thing here so that Malaysians will get to know about, and enjoy the health benefits of this wholesome spud.

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Note: People with existing kidney stones or are at high risk of developing them should minimise consumption of sweet potatoes as they contain oxalates.